July 15, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 537

Editorials from the New Iraqi Press: MEMRI Baghdad Dispatch (1)

July 15, 2003
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 537

Since the demise of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime in Iraq, and with it the state control of the media, dozens of new free and uncensored daily and weekly newspapers are available to the Iraqi public. Some of these dailies are independent, but most are organs of one of the burgeoning political parties and groupings.

The following is the first in a series of reports issued by MEMRI's newly established office in Baghdad . The reports will provide a comprehensive overview of the new Iraqi press.


'The Negatives of Liberty '

Under the title "The Negatives of Liberty", 'Alaa Fadhil Al-Tamimi wrote in the daily Al-Iraq Al-Jadidthat after the fall of the old regime "many Iraqis expected the gates of heaven were about to open... [Some Iraqis] have expected that the demise of the old regime will make liberty possible but we hear about it only in news bulletins."

"Among most enthusiasts… [it was believed] that the liberated will each receive some dollars that [were] stolen by Saddam Hussein, but they were shocked to discover that the promised dollars do not come easily, even for those retired individuals who have to stand under the hot June and July sun for hours... They [enthusiasts] have sworn that the Americans will start new projects for the reconstruction of Iraq after the end of the war… It is hard to believe that all these projects are ink on paper and were only granted to bankrupt American companies to revive the American, not the Iraqi, economy."

"People were also disappointed to discover that the food rations distributed by the Civil Administration are the same as those which were distributed by the previous regime. The expectations for meats, eggs, bananas, and nuts have not materialized." [1]

'An American Incongruity'

The Iraqi newspaper Al-'Adalapublished an editorial in which it said:

"It is a ridiculous incongruity that the occupiers celebrate their independence day while occupying other countries."

"Last Friday, July 4th, American and other soldiers lighted hundreds of candles and the music blared in their camps and in Saddam's palaces, which they turned into their headquarters in celebration of American independence from Britain in 1776."

"We congratulate the American people on their independence day, but we question whether the Americans are concerned about [other] peoples' freedom as much as they are concerned about theirs? Do they honor the will of nations to be independent as much as they sanctify their own independence?"

"Reality shows that there is an incongruity and a double-standard in American policy. America says something but does its opposite… During the last 50 years, the American administration (Democratic and Republican alike) dismissed, and was insolent in dealing with, the nations of the world. It persisted in its disdain to the nations of the world by appointing criminal rulers over them, and there are ample examples [of this]…"

"America's excuse in Iraq was its 'liberation' from a terrorist, corrupt, and despotic ruler… and it was correct doing so. But it is a different issue when it removes the despot but ignores the right of the Iraqi people [to have] freedom and independence…" [2]

' Iran and the Iraqi Shi'a'

In an editorial titled "Iran and the Iraqi Shi'a," Al-Iraq Al-Jadid stated that the Ba'ath authority in Iraq adopted a policy toward Iran which was driven by anti-Shi'a considerations. At the same time Iraq was flirting with neighboring Turkey which was meddling in internal Iraqi affairs "the Iraqi Shi'a were committed to the defense of the nation, and their loyalty to it has superceded any religious considerations… The buried regime used concerted propaganda to distort the reasons for its war with Iran but some Iraqis understood the game and chose to surrender rather than fight. They considered their action as a nationalist stand that is meant to weaken the regime. As a result, there is a large Iraqi community in Iran which includes prisoners of war, in addition to refugees, and others who have been expelled by the regime."

"...[T]here is no evidence, today or yesterday, that there is a single Iraqi Shi'ite who would take pride in accepting and publicizing such [Iranian] influence. The Iraqi Shi'a are proud of their nationality, and there is ample historical evidence to prove it." [3]

'Present Circumstances and the Anticipated Constitution'

An editorial in the daily Al-Bayan read:

"The constitution is still the foundation for building a country… and if a country goes through unusual circumstances such as Iraq is going through today, there is still no justification to ignore the constitution. And there is no justification [either] in imposing it on the nation, because of Iraqi or foreign pretexts… National unity urgently calls for an Iraqi national constitution that reflects the will of various political forces within the Iraqi people…" [4]

'False Slogans'

A column published in the daily Baghdadstated:

"Months before the war, Jordanians popularized the slogan 'Jordan First.' An amusing story is told about one stupid person who participated in a demonstration in Amman against the war carrying a placard with the inscription 'we oppose the attack on Iraq. Jordan first.' A similar slogan is heard in Iraq today. This slogan which may cause comfort to many Iraqis, and particularly to some media people who bet on the occurrence of many disasters in Iraq akin to those that had occurred in Lebanon during the civil war. They are using the same deplorable slogans that Saddam used in the nationalism market about the common Arab destiny. They are the same slogans used after the nationalization of Iraqi oil when graffiti was written on school walls about 'Iraqi oil for the Iraqi people.' But who were the people who benefited from this oil? These are false slogans." [5]

'The Return of Saddam: The Devil's Nest in Heaven'

In another column in the same daily relating to Saddam's purported speech broadcast in Al-Jazeera TV, the daily Baghdad wrote:

"The provoking speech by Saddam Hussein which was broadcast on Arabic TV stations represents Saddam's style of arrogance, bravado and braggadocio [for] which he was famous. In the speech, Saddam said that the military operations against American forces were carried out by the supporters of the defunct regime, admitting that he was behind what harm was done to the electric and water installations in the wake of these operations."

"We have said more than once that these operations have not expedited, nor will they expedite, the departure of the allied forces from Iraq. Logic and good sense demand that we consider the subject from a different perspective to put the interest of the people and the nation as a priority. It is illogical that he who allegedly seeks to rebuild his country will destroy for the second time electric and water installations or will kill and injure innocent Iraqis. If Saddam's speech is genuine, then it appears that he hasn't benefited from the profound lesson of his mistakes committed throughout his regime in Iraq."

"Saddam has lost all his cards following his defeat, and everyone in Iraq, young and old, now understands the truth. Therefore, whoever dreams of the return of Saddam for the second time is likely to believe that the devil will build his nest in heaven…" [6]

'The Counter Attacks'

In an editorial titled "The Counter Attacks: Are They Organized or Do They Reflect a Private Perspective?!" Faris Al-Kateb, the editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Yawm Al-Aakhar, wrote:

"From what we see and observe we are led to say firmly and objectively that there is nothing that can be called organized guerrilla warfare as some are inclined to conclude based on confrontations with American forces stationed across the Iraqi provinces. In fact, what is happening are private efforts by zealous youths who refuse to accept the presence of American forces in the residential areas of the capital and the provinces. Guerrilla warfare is carried out daily and in organized fashion and with premeditated planning… what is really happening [here] are small skirmishes…" [7]

'A Letter to General [sic.] Paul Bremer '

In a separate column, also appearing in Al-Yawm Al-Aakher, Abd Al-Sattar Al-Haj wrote to Paul Bremer:

"Given the harsh conditions under which the Iraqis live nowadays, we call on General [sic] Bremer to answer these questions:"

"The entire Iraqi people are aware of what you have recently acknowledged in the Security Council that you are an occupation [force], not a liberating force as you alleged. The occupation authority is required under international law to provide security, food, medication, electricity, and other basic services. The Iraqi citizen cannot agree with your shirking of responsibility or that you are placing the blame on others. You are a great nation and there is nothing too difficult for it to accomplish in the field of technology."

"Oh General Bremer: many people hold you responsible for not providing the assistance in the manner and type that you heralded when you entered Iraq… Now that three months have elapsed since your occupation you are still incapable of providing security and services to the people. In these circumstances, what is your response for not establishing an Iraqi government and taking the initiative in the reconstruction of Iraq in a serious manner." [8]

'The Rehabilitation of Souls'

Ali Baban, editor-in-chief of Dar Al-Salam wrote in an editorial: "… In this new phase, and based on the 'reconstruction' slogan, there is a need to rehabilitate the values, behaviors and souls [of the Iraqis]. In other words, the parties and politicians in our country are all responsible for creating a [new] political awareness within the Iraqi individual, because the previous phase with its catastrophic outcomes cannot be attributed only to the errant behaviors of one individual, i.e. Saddam Hussein, no matter how despotic he was… We should realize the dangers inherent in the absence of awareness within the nation. The Iraqi individual should understand today – as is the case in many countries – that the head of the state is an employee who is supposed to serve the nation and to oversee all service sectors, and that [his position] is not a status or an honor that allows any human being to dominate people and to exploit their resources…" [9]

'Governing Council, a Step in the Right Direction'

Al-'Adala expressed its support of the establishment of the new Iraqi Governing Council and stated: "As we stand on the threshold of a new phase in the political rehabilitation of Iraq, after the fall of the dictatorial and despotic regime… the Iraqi people should rise to any level that will pave the way to the dominance of the national will, and the establishment of an interim Iraqi government that has the capability, authority, and responsibility to carry out successful plans that will, first and foremost, benefit the people…" [10]

'Three Months after the Fall of the Despot: a Plea for Reason, before the Opportunity is Gone'

Reflecting the moderate statements of Ayatollah Baqir Al-Haqim, the leader of SCIRI, Al-Adala wrote: "Three months have passed since the demise of the despot Saddam Hussein and his terrorist regime… and in the case of the Iraqi people, they seem like years, because… the strife that we have been experiencing curtailed any positive progress that was expected following the collapse of the Ba'ath regime…" The paper goes on to say that although the Iraqi people did not actually participate in the final battles that led to the coalition's victory, the U.S. and Britain should realize that the weakness of Saddam's regime was the result of thirty years of isolation imposed on it by the Iraqi opposition. "Therefore, the Americans – in their victory against Saddam – had a partner, the Iraqi people. America, while celebrating its victory, ignored this fact intentionally or unintentionally. This may have been the U.S.'s biggest mistake, which undermined her steps today and put her in an unenviable position." [11]

'Arab Fighters'

An editorial in the business daily Al-Aswaq takes issue with an interview broadcast by Al-Jazeera TV in which a young Lebanese declared that he would not visit Iraq "before its liberation" from the Americans because he was afraid of how the coalition forces would treat him. The article reacts to this statement by saying that this young man, and his Arab colleagues who hailed and supported the former regime, were really afraid of something else, i.e. no longer receiving preferential treatment, the money and the chauffeured limousines that they used to receive from Saddam at the government's expense. The article goes on to state: "The Arab 'fighter' who is afraid of being frisked by the coalition forces does not know, or is forgetting, that the coalition forces do not treat the Iraqis with a fraction of [the harshness] used against them by the Saddam occupation, with its Mukhabart, general security, military intelligence, police intelligence, Saddam's Fedayeens, and Party Comrades…" [12]

'We are all Thieves, Your Excellency'

A column by Dr. Hashem Hussein in Al-Sa'a [13] addressed to Paul Bremer says that the worst mistake that Saddam had made was considering Iraq a personal inheritance given to him by "those who created him… Therefore, he started to bestow [on others] to his heart's desire… [he gave] to liars and hypocrites… but not to the disparately impoverished in the heart of Baghdad . This man has broken every principle and tenet of safeguarding public resources, as decreed by our honorable Prophets and Caliphs… Saddam's chapter is over, but the alarming fact is that some Iraqis started to act as if they are Saddam Hussein, and started to squander public monies in a criminal way… They have been salivating at bundles of dollars stolen from banks, and sold stolen properties and cars… and when confronted, they bury their heads in the sand or answer you boastfully, 'all of us participated in the looting' and we took what belonged to the people, not to a private person." [14]

'The American Crisis in Iraq '

An editorial by the independent daily Al-Shiradescribed aspects of the security conditions in Iraq and said that "these crises will not be solved by replacing the Marines with Army forces, then replacing those with military police, and maybe in the future with the new Iraqi army, because the problem is psychological emanating from the feeling of American soldiers that they are standing on usurped grounds and walking on a mine-field that is legally justified to explode under their feet at any time." The editorial adds: "The American administration is trying now to shift the responsibility of maintaining security in Iraq to NATO, which will not only help her get rid of the security crisis in Iraq, but more importantly it will embroil the two main opponents to its war against Iraq, i.e. France and Germany." [15]

'Replacing Dictatorship with Colonialism is Unacceptable'

An editorial in Al-Da'wasays that dictatorships and despotism throughout ancient and recent history, no matter how much they oppressed their nations and misled their peoples were eventually vanquished because oppression brings out the power of nations and their ability to affect change.

"And now Iraq . When the Iraqis removed the regime of the despot, and left him and his band of corrupt and tyrannical Ba'athists to face in terror their dark fate… there were those among the Iraqis and the political movements in Iraq who believed in the sincerity of the American claims prior, during, and after the war, that focused on a pivotal issue, namely to help the Iraqis rebuild their country and establish an independent state and a pluralistic democratic regime. However, the political and military realities in Iraq revealed the fallacy and lies of these assertions."

The editorial goes on to explain that all the measures taken by the American administration lead to the conclusion that the U.S. wants "to control Iraq 's resources and to replace internal despotism with occupation, colonization and subjugation, which the free sons of Iraq cannot accept." [16]

Special News Reports

Iraqi Intelligence Services Reorganize

Al-Aswaq writes that a secret report by the European intelligence services has revealed that "the Iraqi intelligence [services] have succeeded in secretly reorganize[ing] and have incorporated elements of the military professions as well as experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, propaganda, and media. Their objective is to carry out military and psychological warfare against the American and British forces." The intelligence plan calls upon Saddam's loyalists to:

  • Adopt the style of hit and run
  • Confiscate weapons of killed occupation soldiers
  • Avoid the experience of the Palestinians which entailed [many] casualties
  • Use explosives to cause the highest number of casualties among soldiers
  • Misguide American soldiers into areas where alleged individuals are on the wanted list and ambush them
  • Publicize photographs showing American soldiers raping Iraqi women to antagonize public opinion both domestic and foreign
  • Disseminate conflicting stories about Saddam Hussein still being alive to put fear in the hearts of his former loyalists
  • Utilize stories involving violations committed by the occupation soldiers. Exaggerate these stories to influence public opinion at home and abroad
  • Use a policy of incitement to arouse nationalistic feelings
  • Use continuous publicity about the availability of weapons to those who wish to join the resistance
  • Disseminate propaganda against American control of public services and, in particular, the power sector. Spread the word that America is using a policy of penalizing Iraqis by cutting off their electricity. [17]

Taking Advantage of Iraqis' Suffering

An article by Al-Sa'a said that the newspaper monitored news reports broadcast by Al-Jazeera TV, on a daily basis for a full month, and concluded that "most of these reports were exaggerated, sensational and tended to generalize isolated events." The newspaper goes on to say that it found out that Al-Jazeera correspondents "are instructed to take a predetermined position of inciting the citizens against the American forces… One of the leaders in the city of Al-Fallouja told Al-Sa'a that [an] Al-Jazeera correspondent in the city keeps asking the citizens 'when are you going to start the suicide operation?' - which contains clear incitement."

The paper goes on to say that its study showed that Al-Jazeera was trying to gain "journalistic coups from the misery of 22 million Iraqis, by focusing on isolated situations and then generalizing them. For example, the murder of British soldiers in Al-Majar… which turned [by Al-Jazeera] into a general resistance [movement] sweeping southern Iraq…"

According to Al-Sa'a, Al-Jazeera believes that 'media savvy' means turning isolated events into a sensation even at the price of curtailing the return of security to Iraqi cities. [18]

[1] Al-Iraq Al-Jadid, July 7, 2003. The paper's title means "The New Iraq," and is associated with Ayatollah Ali Husseini Al-Sistani, a leading Shi'a leader in the holy city of Najaf.

[2] Al-'Adala, July 7, 2003. The paper is published by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) headed by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, a Shi'a senior cleric who has been generally cautious in his statements with regard to U.S.

[3] Al-Iraq Al-Jadid, July 7, 2003.

[4] Al-Bayan, July 8, 2003. Al-Bayan is an organ of Hizb Al-Da'wa Al-Islami, or The Islamic Missionary Party.

[5] Baghdad, authoredby Muhammad Ghazi Al-Akhras, July 9, 2003. Baghdad is published by Harakat Al-Wifaq Al-Watani, or National Reconciliation Movement.

[6] Baghdad, authored by Abd Al-Hamid Al-Omari, July 9, 2003.

[7] Al-Yawm Al-Aakher, July 10, 2003. Al-Yawm Al-Aakhar is an independent political daily published by the Al-Munnajed Publishing House.

[8] Al-Yawm Al-Aakher, July 7, 2003.

[9] Dar Al-Salam, July 10, 2003. Dar-Al-Salam means "The House of Peace," and is published by The Iraqi Islamic Party.

[10] Al-'Adala, July 10, 2003. Al-'Adala is published by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

[11] Al-'Adala, July 10, 2003.

[12] Al-Aswaq, July 10, 2003. Al-Aswaq means "The Markets," and is published by the Association of Iraqi Industries.

[13] According to the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat the newspaper Al-Sa'a, meaning "The Clock," has split into "two clocks". The first "clock" presented itself as a general political newspaper, an organ of the United National Front, whose editorial board is headed by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Qubaisi, a firebrand preacher in Qatar who recently returned to Iraq with a moderate and even conciliatory voice. The newspaper is published on Saturday and Wednesday. The second "clock" presents itself as an independent political newspaper speaking for all the Iraqis and issued by a group of journalists. The original Al-Sa'a ran into a problem with the occupation authorities after publishing in June a story about a gang rape by American soldiers of two Iraqi girls (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, July 10, 2003).

[14] Al-Sa'a , July 12, 2003.

[15] Al-Shira', July 12, 2003. The Chief Editor of Al-Shira is D. Sattar Ghanem.

[16] Al-Da'wa , July 12, 2003 . Al-Dawa is an organ of the Islamic Missionary Party.

[17] Al-Aswaq, July 7, 2003. Ihsan Abd Al-Razzaq Abd Al-Ghafour is the publisher.

[18] Al-Sa'a, July 9, 2003 .

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